Police in the southern province of Binh Duong are investigating accusations that a criminal gang has been luring local youths to casinos in Cambodia to kidnap them and demand ransoms.
Bo Thi Thay, vice principal of Lai Uyen High School in Ben Cat District, said at least five ninth-graders and one eleventh-grader from the school had been trapped in Cambodia.
Binh Duong residents have reported to police that a group of locals had been visiting villages and luring students to join them on trips to Cambodian casinos, where the students were then lent large amounts of money to play.
After the students lose the money and can't pay the debts, those who lured them to the casinos then call the youths' parents and demand that they bring money to Cambodia to pay the debts before the kids are released, according to local reports.
One of the students, who wished to be known only as H.A.T, said he and three of his friends went to Cambodia by taxi on March 4 after they were invited by a man named Cu, who often boasted about his gambling trips to Cambodia.
According to the ninth-grader, they set out at around 9 p.m. on that day after lying to their families that they went out for a walk.
After nearly two hours they arrived at Moc Bai Border Gate in Tay Ninh Province, where a group of motorbike taxi drivers took them through a forest to Cambodia, he said.
Arriving in Cambodia, the students received "very warm welcome" with good meals and accommodation, he said, adding that a man later lent him US$2,000 and one of his friends $3,000, while the other two students just watched.
T. said at first he won over $1,500 but very soon he and his friend lost and ended up debtors.
Nguyen Van Thu, father of one of T's friends, said on March 5 a man named Phong called him, informing that his son was indebted to a casino. Phong demanded that the father pay off the debt in return for his son's freedom.
According to the father, everything seemed to be planned with the arrangement of motorbike taxi drivers who drove him and his younger brother to Cambodia with VND90 million ($4,735) to pay the debt.
"On the way, they [the drivers] were very careful. Sometimes they received calls from somebody, after which they would hide us and themselves for a few minutes before continuing," Thu said, adding they also received warm welcomes with generous meals when they arrived in Cambodia.
T's mother, Nguyen Thi Nhon, reported the same details.
According to Vuong Tan Phuong, head of Lai Uyen Commune police in Cat Lai, inspectors were investigating certain people suspected of luring students in into gambling traps. They were also cooperating with several local agencies to warn people of such tricks.